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Literature / The Legendsong Saga

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A trilogy by Australian author Isobelle Carmody. Composed of Darkfall and Darksong, with Darkbane yet to be published.

Glynn and Ember are on holiday in Greece, to escape the relentless business of Ember's dying from brain cancer. Upset by Ember's apathy, Glynn goes for a moonlight swim and gets swept away to the world of Keltor, where one group prays for the coming of the Unraveller, a mythic figure from Earth, and another decries strangers as demons.


All Glynn wants is to get home to her sister, but she doesn't realise that Ember has followed her.

The Legendsong Saga contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Glynn, and any Myrmidon
  • Always Identical Twins: Averted. See Different as Night and Day below.
  • Amazon Brigade: the Myrmidons are a community of female fighters based on the island of Myrdmoor, whose primary duty is to protect the soulweavers while away from their home on Darkfall. Their preferred fighting method is a form of martial arts, sometimes accompanied by a short javelin.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: At the start of Darksong, Ember regains her memory and is forced to face not only the knowledge of her illness and impending death, but also the personality she created to deal with it. This personality becomes known as Dark Ember, and represents the forces of Chaos.
  • Animal Eye Spy: Glynn is able to do this with the He-fienna while it is hurt. She also uses the link to experience occasional dreams like this with both the He- and She-fienna.
    • Glynn also has a human variation on this with Solen.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Both Wind and Lanalor after they suicide enter the void but retain their awareness and identity, becoming the equivalent of guardian spirits.
  • Aura Vision: One of the skills soulweavers possess; a result of their silverblindness.
  • Badass Bookworm: Kerd is a variation on this with his badass coming in the form of political skills.
  • Bald of Evil: Coralyn follows the traditional Iridomi practice of shaving her head and wearing wigs or headdresses. Despite supposedly being common practice, Alaude (her minion) is the only other person shown to do this; Iridomi in general are seen as being more evil in general due to association and their poison industry.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Glynn wishes for Ember to forget that she is dying, and the portal removes all personal memories including this very important warning...
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  • Becoming the Mask: Despite losing his usefulness to the Shadowman, Solen is quite glad when his 'death'/exile allows him to discard his wastrel persona. He is afraid that if he pretends too long and too deeply he will lose who he really is.
  • Beneath the Mask: Solen realises that one of the dangers of Glynn's muteness is that he talks to her as though to himself, risking lifting his mask and exposing the fact that his personality as a wastrel is just an act.
    • Particularly in the Citadel, it is said that courtiers just wear layer upon layer of masks. The protagonists' allies are notable for having the fewest masks.
  • Blind Seer: All the soulweavers. They sacrifice their normal sight for the ability to see auras and know the truth while segueing in the Void. Gained during the Darkfall process.
  • Bond Creature: Glynn and Bayard with the She-feinna, and Glynn and (to a lesser extent, Solen) with the He-feinna. The feinna link is only designed to be within the species, so linking with a human requires the mind of one of the pair to be reshaped to fit. This produces some interesting side effects, such as Glynn's extended senses and ability to influence others.
  • Broken Bird: In different ways, Glynn and Ember are both this. Glynn, at least, gets better through her love for Solen and link with the He-feinna.
  • Chekhov's Hobby: Solen’s ability to deal with seasickness. This means that he is awake and on deck both to rescue Glynna at the start of Darkfall, and to help birth the he-feinna.
    • The explanation also covers the reason why Hella, his sister, was awake to hear Soonkar being discovered as a stowaway, rather than being in a drugged sleep like most travellers.
  • Chekhov's News: Something dramatic has to happen at the Night of the Comet concert in Darkbane.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Glynn’s martial arts skills have already come in handy a couple of times, and are likely to do so more in the last book. Also her fienna senses are likely to be this.
    • Ember’s musical ability is almost certainly going to be this in Darkbane when she enters the Void to rescue the Unykorn.
  • Cold-Blooded Torture: Coralyn encourages and makes extensive use of this practice; her son, Kalide, particularly enjoys it and is infamous for his 'skill'. He tends to be less cold-blooded about it, frequently becoming frustrated and losing control; getting him in trouble with Coralyn for causing excessive damage.
    • Bleyd and Glynn are both on the receiving end from Kalide.
    • Myrmidons fall into a coma to avoid it, requiring the trigger word within three days to waken them, or they die.
  • Comet of Doom: The comet appears to be the Earth equivalent of the Unraveller, the sign that the balance between Chaos and Harmony/Song is about to change.
  • Convenient Coma: Lanalor’s body is preserved in one while most of his spirit is busy running things as Ronaall
    • Ember’s tumour will cause her to fall into one just before she dies. It is likely that this is when she will complete her quest as the Unraveller to free the Unykorn.
    • A minor character, the Shadow, is in one and is occasionally used to demonstrate the battle against Chaos in the real world.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Glynn and Ember's parents died in a car crash a about a year ago. Despite being only 17, they live alone.
  • Cool Mask: Ember frequently uses masks (or veils) to hide her silverblind eye, as it both shows that she is a stranger and fulfils one of the signs of the Unraveller.
    • Masks are required by law to be worn at the Iridomi Aiden festival and can get quite elaborate.
  • Decadent Court: Iridom, oh so much.
    • The Citadel under Tarsin and Coralyn's influence is also rapidly heading there.
  • Death Seeker: While (Dark) Ember does not seek death because she can already see its approach, she does devote the rest of her life and her music to it.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Dark Ember is created when Ember crosses it.
  • Different as Night and Day: Lampshaded. Glynn and Ember are twins who are both physical and personality opposites. Their only physical similarity is the same colour eyes (yellow); personality contrasts include Ember’s musical talents and Glynn being tone-deaf.
  • The Dragon : Kalide to Coralyn
  • Driven to Suicide: Wind
    • Some versions of Shennavyre after the Unykorn has been imprisoned
    • Lanalor's death is also suicide, part of his atoning Self-Sacrifice Scheme
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Kalide; although given what Coralyn is like, that is unsurprising. More surprising is the way that Tarsin puts up with her.
  • Evil Prince: Kalide. He’s particularly annoyed given that a) his brother is mad and b) the position of Holder (or mermod) is assigned by the soulweavers not inherited anyway
  • Face Death with Dignity: This is the motivation behind Dark Ember and her acceptance/worship of death.
  • Faking Amnesia: Glynn does this to hide her ignorance about Keltor. She ‘regains’ her memory as she learns more and can create a cover story.
  • Faking the Dead: Solen apparently downs himself after being caught out about taking Fay to Darkfall and accused of treason. He later turns up perfectly alive on Glynn’s ship from Fomhika, having shed his Shadowman agent cover.
  • Fish out of Water: Glynn, though she learns fast.
  • Flight: Windwalking, is the ‘power’ possessed by Acanthans. While windwalkers can lift themselves with just the power of their mind, for longer times/distances they also use a harness with gliding wings. Solen is a particularly strong windwalker.
  • Goodbye, Cruel World!: Wind left a note after drowning himself in the river.
    My arrow flies into the night
    Seeking a target out of sight
    If nothing draws it to the light
    I fall to the Void, I drown”
  • God Save Us from the Queen!: Caoralyn is the only (single) female Cheiftain other than Durran, and is also one of the more evil and manipulative characters.
  • Healing Hands: Whitecloaks use these, healing mostly on a spirit level (rebalancing chakras). They also use physical/herbal remedies, but these are seen as primitive and rarely necessary, particularly for illness.
    • Alene and some other soulweavers can also use a form of this.
  • Heroic BSoD: Ember when she first discovers that she is dying, and again when she re-remembers it.
    • The original Dark Ember is an ongoing form of BSOD.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Lanalor and Shennavyre
    • Subverted with Ember and Bleyd as he doesn't know she has red hair, and later falls for Hella
  • Hope Is Scary : In Dark Ember's case, hope threatens her very existence.
    • This is also the attitude of people on Earth who chooses indifference.
  • Ice Queen: To deal with the knowledge of her death, Ember focuses her entire being on this fact, cutting herself off from everyone else. In Darksong this part of her becomes Dark Ember
  • Identity Amnesia: Upon arriving in Keltor Ember forgets everything but her name, and the fact that Keltor is not her world.
  • Idiot Ball: Glynn, many times. Sure, visit the one person on Keltor who wants you dead more than anything. What could possibly go wrong?
    • Not to mention, she then refuses the perfect chance to get away when she first lands on Ramidan.
  • Prince Incognito: Anyi when Ember first meets him. He does this frequently to spy on Coralyn.
  • Last of His Kind: The He-feinna.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Literally; Lanalor over Shenavyre. Love is said to be one of the seven doorways to Chaos.
  • Magic Music: Keltor was created by the Song.
    • Fomhikan plant singing
    • Shennavyre’s singing and beauty captivated the Unykorn
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Poverin (Cheiftain of Fomhika) and Maeve have Bleyd, Gedron, Donard, Torred, Anyi and Rilka. Anyi says that of them all, despite being the last, Rilka is best suited to being the next Chieftain. By the end of Darksong this is starting to be a distinct possibility; with Bleyd outlawed, Gedron previously disowned, and Anyi disqualified as mermod.
  • Meaningful Echo: Thanks first to the Unykorn then to Lanalor's Portal, Keltor and our world are full of links, with events echoing and re-echoing between them. Notable examples include:
    • Lanalor and Wind's last words "I fall to the Void, I drown".
    • The characters of Feyt and Tareed with Fay and Tabby.
    • The dream of Shennavyre and the Unykorn; and the way the circus performance reflected Solen's escape from the hall.
  • The Mole: Solen is an undercover Shadowman agent while on Acantha
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Lanalor when he realises how he has been tricked into trapping the Unykorn. In the original version of the Legendsong, the shock was enough to send him sane.
  • Mysterious Mist: Darkfall, aka The Misty Isle
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Solen pretends to be a drunken fool as a cover for his work for the Shadowman. It also allows him to say things that people wouldn't accept from someone sober.
    • People often underestimate and dismiss Kerd due to his honest and friendly nature. It turns out that he is much more politically savvy than most people realise, understanding their plots but refusing to join in.
  • Order Versus Chaos: Otherwise known as Harmony/Song versus Chaos. The basic struggle of the trilogy is to bring the two forces back into balance by strengthening harmony again. Harmony is associated with positive emotions, particularly hope, while Chaos is associated with negative emotions. Surprisingly, the strongest of these is indifference.
  • Parental Favoritism: Glynn's birth was unexpected and her mother was less than pleased to have twins. Her father who does love her explains that she never really wanted children in the first place because it ended her career as a concert pianist, and can only love Ember because she is a copy of herself.
  • Path of Inspiration: The Drakaan Cult is careful about how they present their philosophy. Unlike many past groups, they started off by simply pointing out some of the many ambiguities in the Legendsong and sparking academic debate. From there, their interpretations gradually got increasing controversial until they have pretty much turned the Legendsong inside out, painting the Unraveller as a demon and the 'Void Guardian' as their protector.
  • Portal Pool: Actually the ocean, which when combined with music, moonlight and longing allows you to pass through Lanalor's Portal to Keltor.
  • Prophet Eyes: The soulweavers have these, known as silverblindness.
    • Ember also has a cateract on her left eye due to her tumour; it is one of the features identifying her as the Unraveller.
  • Psychic Link: Glynn and Solen are linked through their bond with the he-feinna.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Particularly in Darksong, Glynn is red and (dark)Ember is blue.
  • Religion of Evil: At its core, the Draakan Cult is this, designed to aid and communicate with the Chaos Spirit as well as rewrite/reinterpret the Legendsong (Keltan equivalent of the Bible).
  • Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves: Averted when Glynn is rescued by myrmidons on Fomhika. Instinctively trusting her, they take her back to the inn where several Darkfall allies have gathered and, despite her attempts to leave, offer her the chance to join them. Hella then reveals that Glynn is working for the Drakka and they realise she now knows too much, but they offer her the chance to spy on the Drakka for them instead. Glynn is tempted to take their offered escape, but her sense of honour forces her to refuse. Duran is impressed, and reveals that if she had accepted she would have allowed one of the other myrmidons to kill her. Instead she lets her go, offering friendship and requesting that Glynn reconsiders about her loyalties.
  • Rulers Who Actually Do Something: Duran is unusually both Chieftain of Myrdmoor and leader of the myrmidons. As such, she travels and takes more risks than most Chieftains. She gained her position as leader of the myrmidons through demonstration of her fighting skills, making it also a case of Authority Equals Asskicking.
  • Save Both Worlds: The Chaos Spirit is gaining strength in both Keltor and Earth after entering Earth through Lanalor's Portal. Only freeing the Unykorn can bring Chaos and Song back into balance in Keltor, something more is needed to save Earth.
  • Scry vs. Scry: Ronaall and the Chaos Spirit
  • Sealed Good in a Can: Type 2. The Unykorn
  • Significant Anagram: Ronaall from Lanalor
  • Split Personality: Ember and Dark Ember in Darksong. Dark Ember was created to help Ember deal with the knowledge of her death. When Ember came to Keltor she forgot about her dying and reverted to her original personality; when she regained her memory Dark Ember became a separate personality. Dark Ember can also be seen as the avatar/voice of the Chaos Spirit.
    • Split-Personality Merge: Ember tries to do this with Dark Ember in Darksong, but they discover that with the strength her performing gives Ember, they are now too incompatible.
    • Split-Personality Takeover: When Ember regains her memories she allows Dark Ember to take control to protect her from the knowledge of her death. She later gets control back again.
  • Succession Crisis: Mostly averted by having the Mermod chosen by Darkfall Decree at the same time as the new Holder is confirmed. The idea is that because the Mermod can be chosen from any sept and station it balances out the power.
    • Coralyn plans to initiate one by killing/removing Anyi (and Tarsin), with the aim of getting Kalide on the throne during the ensuing chaos.
  • Super Senses: Part of the enhancements wrought by the She-feinna for Glynn's link with the He-fienna are better hearing and sense of smell.
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Glynn and Wind. He refused to let it go all the way, knowing that she was not yet ready for it despite what she might think. She was 16, he was mid 20s.
  • The Cassandra: Soulweavers are universally out of favor right when the time of the Unraveller approaches.
  • The Empath: Glynn's feinna senses cause her to become this; she has little control over her projective abilities.
  • The Nose Knows: The Iridomi ‘power’ is a sense of smell strong enough to detect the pharmaceutical properties of plants.
  • The Omniscient: Ronaall, Wind and the Chaos spirit are all this to varying extent. Ronaall is the weakest although still able to use the Void to track the possible futures relating to the Legendsong prophecy and subtly influence events towards a favorable outcome. The Chaos spirit is the strongest, although even it can be tricked and distracted.
  • The Topic of Cancer: Ember's brain tumour.
  • Trapped in Another World: The central dilemma for Glynn and Ember
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Glynn and Ember. This is demonstrated by the fact that Glynn studies martial arts while Ember studies music.
    • Also the Myrmidon and Soulweaver partnerships
  • Two Lines, No Waiting / Three Lines, Some Waiting: The story alternates between Ember and Glynn. Changeover is linked by Ronaall’s segue sections reflecting on events and showing snippets of what is happening back on Earth. Each chapter also starts with a few verses from the Legendsong or other period texts.
  • Unicorn: The Unykorn
    • Also incorporates Virgin and the Unicorn with Shennavyre, and the tapestries
  • Unicorns Are Sacred: The Unykorn is the Firstborn of the Song of Making and is Song/harmony/good personified.
  • Wise Prince: Behind his joking and often childish exterior, Anyi knows what it means to be a ruler and is determined to be a good one when his turn comes. Not actually related to the ruler, having been chosen as normal by the soulweavers according to Darkfall decree.
  • Work Off the Debt: Glynn agrees to do this in return for her food and bed in the Draakan haven after losing her money. Actually they stole her money and are drugging her into a mindless slave; at least until an ‘accident’ brings her to her senses.